Last week saw the opening of electric car company Tesla's first European showroom in London which could turn out to be a historic moment for the UK, European and worldwide electric car market. This is a company which is pushing the barrier further and further back in the electric vehicle market and introducing new technology which is sure to form the base for electric cars of the future.
Tesla has been in the news of late with the launch of a succession of environmentally friendly, highly efficient and eye-catching electric vehicles which have changed the perception which many people have of the electric car market. So why have Tesla chosen London and what does the future hold for the UK electric car market?
While some people may be a little surprised to see Tesla choosing London as the venue for its first European showroom there is no doubt that the UK is ahead of many other European countries with regards to the development and ultimate introduction of electric cars. London has also, for many years, been one of the central financial markets in the world and as such attracts interest from leading companies and investors around the globe. What better place to showcase the latest and greatest in the electric car market than the streets of London which are said to be "paved with gold".
Even though the UK car manufacturing industry has been decimated over the last 20 years or so there is no doubt that demand for revolutionary and highly innovative cars continues to grow across the country. The initial interest in the electric car market, and in particular the range of Tesla cars, should more than make up for the economic downturn in the UK and around the world. As and when the worldwide economy starts to pick up and improve this should then introduce a new element of natural demand for vehicles in general.
While some people may suggest opening your first European showroom in the midst of a recession is a little adventurous to say the least, the company will have time to bed down the London operation and take advantage of the new interest in electric vehicles in the UK before the overall market starts to improve.
The UK electric vehicle market
As we have covered over the last few days, the UK government recently announced a new £25 million electric vehicle scheme which will see a number of innovative electric cars trialled across the country as a prelude to a full-blown launch of this new mode of transport. This in itself is more than enough to inject significant interest into the electric car market but there are other factors which appear to have been timed to perfection by Tesla.
It was only a few days ago that Boris Johnson, the Lord Mayor of London, announced plans to introduce up to 100,000 electric cars to the roads of London by 2025. Even though the exact details of the programme have yet to be ironed out it does seem that London has taken the lead over many other European cities with regards to the future use of electric cars.
So what can we expect in Tesla's London showroom?
Chief executive Elon Musk gave an interview to Autocar magazine in which he suggested that London has the potential to lead not only the European market but become one of Tesla's main entry points into the electric vehicle sector of the future. As a consequence we can expect the full range of Tesla electric vehicles to be available in due course with the Roadster electric sports car one of the first on sale in the new showroom. This particular vehicle will retail at around £66,000 ($109,000) and not only offers 240 miles between charges, 0 to 60 in under four seconds but also has the look and feel of a modern day sports car.
Tesla has also confirmed that the Tesla Model S electric sedan will be available in London by late 2011 with an expected retail price of around $50,000 (approximately £30,000). While there is no doubt that demand for the top of the range Tesla Roadster sports car is already there, a Tesla vehicle available for around £30,000 begins to enter the field of the mass-market and could be the first vehicle of its kind, i.e. high-profile, groundbreaking technology and affordable, to hit the UK.
Future technological advances
While Tesla is at the forefront of the electric car technology of the future the company recently attracted a $465 million low-interest loan from the US Department of Energy which will vastly improve the company's research and development operations in the future. Even though there do not appear to be any UK government initiatives or funding programs planned for Tesla in particular, it seems inevitable that the UK authorities will at some stage throw their weight behind what is fast becoming the future of the transport sector.
The UK authorities would be very keen to attract the likes of Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers and retailers to the UK to try and replace the UK car manufacturing industry which has literally been decimated over the last 20 years. The fact that the US authorities have seen fit to offer Tesla a multimillion dollar low interest rate loan is a further feather in the cap for both Tesla and the electric vehicle industry as a whole.
While London has been chosen as the first venue for Tesla's new European initiative the company has plans to open showrooms in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Washington DC and Toronto in the months and years to come. It is certainly a feather in the cap for London that it has been chosen as a showcase for the European market although the fact that London is one of the central financial and investment markets of the world has probably been taken into account.
From a standing start in July 2003, Tesla Motors Inc is taking the electric vehicle market by storm and appears more than willing to expand its operations even in these difficult economic times. While other electric vehicle manufacturers appear happy to sit on the sidelines until both the European, American and worldwide economies improve the opening of Tesla's London showroom has filled something of a vacuum in the industry and could end up being a masterstroke.